Picture: Alex Cantrill-Jones / ACJ Media

A 10-year old Recovery Assistance Dog called Milli, who has been credited with saving her owner’s life and improving her mental health, has just received an award for devotion to her owner.

Cocker Spaniel Milli has been a loyal companion and source of comfort to her owner, Liz Maitland, from Leicestershire since she was a puppy.

Photo Credit: Alex Cantrill-Jones / ACJ Media

Liz, who admits she has had a life-long struggle with her mental health and has attempted suicide in the past, says Milli has been an integral part of her recovery and self-care journey. Milli is always by Liz’s side, keeping her calm and supporting her whenever she feels anxious.

She said: “Life had become unbearable before Milli came along. I was in a downward spiral and I couldn’t see a way out other than suicide. Every day was a struggle.

“Dogs have always been a big part of my life and following a particularly difficult period, I was encouraged by my family to look into getting a puppy. I struck up an immediate bond with Milli, she made me feel at ease and I knew I now had someone who would always be there for me. I learned a lot about the benefits of Recovery Assistance Dogs and I decided to train Milli to be one. Her presence keeps me calm and if I ever feel stressed or anxious, she makes me feel safe. Whenever I feel uncomfortable Milli will touch me for reassurance and put space between me and other people.

“I don’t think I would have survived without Milli. She has given me a reason to live.”

Liz is also committed to helping other people who have gone through similar experiences in their life. In 2004 Liz set up Recovery Assistance Dogs (RAD), a charity that trains dogs like Milli and highlights the benefits of dog ownership on people’s mental health and wellbeing.

Photo Credit: Alex Cantrill-Jones / ACJ Media

As well as their work with RAD, the duo also work with student social workers to teach them about the benefits of recovery assistance dogs, as well as appearing at events to talk about their work.

Milli was presented with her PDSA Commendation by Philip Shanks, Client Services Manager at a special ceremony at Leicester PDSA Pet Hospital.

Philip said: “We were all incredibly moved by the unwavering affection and support Milli has shown over the years – she is a worthy recipient of this award.

“The strong bonds between pets and people are well-documented. As well as providing companionship, our research shows they can play a crucial role in helping improve people’s mental health. Milli has been a constant source of comfort and safety, and I am delighted that their bond has inspired Liz to help other people who need support from companions like Milli.”

Liz concludes: “I couldn’t be prouder of Milli, she is my best friend and really deserves this award. She has given me the courage and strength to step forward and live a happy life. I hope the PDSA Commendation will mean we can raise awareness of the importance of recovery assistance dogs and the role they play in helping people. We are going to celebrate with friends by heading out to our favourite restaurant.”

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